The regular occurrence of food borne pathogen related outbreaks in the EU, the ongoing struggle with pathogens in health care and public health as well as the security threat related to the potential misuse of pathogens emphasise the need for suitable quality assurance tools, such as reference materials and measurement techniques.
The implementation of the regulation on microbiological criteria for food stuffs related legislation in the 'hygiene package' is based on the availability of adequately performing pathogen detection methods. To ensure proper performance of the detection methods laboratories are expected to implement quality assurance systems and to validate the performance of their detection methods with appropriate reference materials. Therefore the JRC has developed well characterised reference materials containing known numbers of microorganisms and covering most of those pathogens which are the origin of the majority of food borne outbreaks.
The natural risks but also the risks related to potential misuse of pathogens and toxic compounds formed by microorganisms require an adequate level of preparedness of relevant authorities and institutions in the EU Member States.
In view of a potential misuse of biological toxins and in line with EC priorities it is important that national experts agree on similar standards, harmonise their analytical approaches and exchange knowledge and technologies. With these aims the already completed EQuATox and the recently launched EuroBioTox project have been established in which the JRC was/is a partner.